Fly the Branded Skies


Agency: Leo Burnett

These are posts from Fly the Branded Skies about Leo Burnett.

“Champagne, sir?” asks the flight attendant.

“Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly,” I answer graciously as I recline in my first-class seat, nonstop from New York to Nice. My seat companion, a famous movie star, wants to hear my story about that shoot I went on that one time, but I’ve already delighted her with it seven times and now I grow weary. I settle in for a few hours of blissful slumber.

Yes, fine, you’re right, this flight is only happening in my imagination. For the fourth year in a row, Branded Skies reports on Cannes from nearly 4,000 miles away.

But what a year it has been for airline brands. For the first time since 2009, work for an airline won a Grand Prix. Of course, it won in the least likely category. But that’s Cannes, where a billboard with no response mechanism at all can be crowned the best direct response work of the year.

It doesn’t have to make sense.

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Jingle: United “Mother Country” (1973)

The friendly skies of your land. United Air Lines

Listen: United Air Lines: “Mother Country”

A confession: I actually like a lot of the jingles I write about. Not even in an ironic, hipster sort of way either. Some of them are admittedly guilty pleasures (like TWA’s 80s power ballad Leading the Way — still desperately trying to find that one on vinyl, by the way) but others I think are legitimately great songs. And of those, “Mother Country” is my favourite.

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Jingle: United “Ballad of the Boss” (1976)

You're the boss.

Listen: United Air Lines: “Ballad of the Boss”

There’s a reason why Leo Burnett was United’s advertising agency for more than thirty years. It has to do with Burnett’s trademark style: Warm. Folksy. Midwestern. Sometimes a bit schmaltzy. But always human. For a long time, that style fit United’s brand perfectly. The result was some of the most memorable airline advertising of the last century.

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The list of finalists in the Southwest Airlines review is down to four, according to Adweek: Arnold, Boston; TBWA\Chiat\Day in Los Angeles; Leo Burnett in Chicago; and Deutsch in Los Angeles. A selection could come as soon as next week. No matter what happens, GSD&M will continue to hold a piece of the account—but it is telling that they are not finalists in this pitch, even though they were invited to participate.

Jingle: United Air Lines “Take Me Along” (1967)

Listen: United Air Lines: “Take Me Along”

This campaign is notorious in the annals of advertising—right up there with the Pacific Air Lines campaign from Stan Freberg that allegedly drove the airline into bankruptcy. Neither campaign was quite as disastrous as the lore now suggests. In fact, this one may have been a big success.

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Jingle: United “Trails” (1972)

Your Land is Our Land. United Air Lines

Listen: United Air Lines: “Trails”

This jingle, cute but unremembered, is a testament to a maturing industry.

It is a symbol, in fact, of a whole genre of airline advertising that barely exists anymore. This genre didn’t say much about fares, or onboard service, or frequent flier programs. Instead, it sold the joy of travel to a public that wasn’t yet used to travelling.

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Tropes: Graduation Day

Every kind of advertising has—well, let’s call them “conventions.” Airline advertising is no different. This is part of a series of posts on the clichés of airline advertising.

This may not be a pervasive trope, but over the years it has popped up often enough to make for some interesting comparisons: stewardesses graduating from training. These four spots, spanning four decades, tell a lot both about how flight attendants are portrayed in advertising and how they’re seen by society at large.

Let’s start in the late 1960s.

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Jingle: United “Fly the Friendly Skies” (1965)

Fly the friendly skies of United.

Listen: United Air Lines: “Fly the Friendly Skies”

“Fly the Friendly Skies” is without question the best-known airline tagline of all time, and it oughta be. United used it for more than 30 years.

That in itself is rare. Even rarer is the fact that for all those years, United employed the same advertising agency: Leo Burnett, Chicago.

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Tropes: Employee-Owners

Every kind of advertising has—well, let’s call them “conventions.” Airline advertising is no different. This is part of a series of posts on the clichés of airline advertising.

When airlines get into trouble, as they often do, they eventually end up being worth more dead than alive. But there’s one group of people that always has an interest in keeping the planes flying: the employees. Over the past few decades, a number of airlines have been saved — however temporarily — when employees took ownership stakes in them, usually in exchange for pay cuts.

And as soon as employees become stockholders, the airline advertises.

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The day the industry changed

Most people will tell you that the airline industry changed 32 years ago today—the day Jimmy Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act.

In fact, there are some people who will tell you that October 24, 1978 was the day everything that ever has changed or ever will change in the airline industry, changed.

Not me. For my money, the day the industry changed was 20 years ago, when Young & Rubicam resigned Trans World Airlines.   Read more